28 May 2024

Is it time for the Raiders to return to a winning formula as they battle to win the big games at home?

| Tim Gavel
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Raiders captain Joe Tapine carries the ball forward during the Raiders-Sharks game

Raiders captain Joe Tapine carries the ball forward during the Raiders-Sharks game this season. Photo: Jayzie Photography.

The home ground is expected to provide fortress-like protection against visiting teams. For the Canberra Raiders this season, GIO Stadium is proving to be anything but.

This is a conundrum given the idea that the cool conditions, the raucous home crowd, the travel and the Viking Clap are supposed to provide a cauldron-like atmosphere for opposition teams.

The Raiders’ best performances this season have been away with victories over Newcastle, Manly and the Bulldogs. Although, admittedly, the Bulldogs game in Brisbane was an away game for both sides in Magic Round.

The away loss to the Warriors in Christchurch was also one of their better performances.

man with Raiders horns and a drum

Canberra Stadium should create a fortress-like environment. Photo: Canberra Raiders.

The wins over Manly and the Bulldogs were book-ended by significant losses at home. They went down to the Sharks 40-0 and the Roosters 44-16.

The Raiders’ wins at home this season have been against Parramatta, the Gold Coast and the Wests Tigers but it is the inconsistency at Canberra Stadium which is cause for concern.

It’s not as if we haven’t been here before and a proven formula was applied to address the issue.

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In 2012, David Furner put the team into a Canberra hotel the night before a home game against the Broncos. The Raiders won 28-12.

Furner followed the same formula in the following weeks, resulting in victories over the Roosters and the Bulldogs.

Ricky Stuart did it in 2016 following the club’s poor record at home the season before. In that year, the team stayed in a Canberra hotel 13 times before home games, resulting in the best home-ground record in 16 years.

Joe Tapine leads the Raiders team onto GIO Stadium to take on the Gold Coast Titans in Round 6

Joe Tapine leads the Raiders team onto Canberra Stadium in round 6. Photo: Jaye Grieshaber.

It’s easier said than done. Many players have young families, and logistically, it takes a fair degree of planning and additional expenses.

I remember talking to players in 2012 and 2016 about it. They were positive about the experience, believing it brought the players closer together.

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Mind you, as full-time professionals, they already spend plenty of time in each other’s company.

As had been predicted at the start of the season, with so many young players in key positions, it was always going to be a roller coaster year.

It has certainly lived up to that forecast.

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It could be worth a try but I’d also want to start getting to the bottom of why, for a long time now, we’ve been one of the weirdest teams in the comp – weird because we could nearly win the comp and almost get the wooden spoon in the same year; win a lot of games where hope in the team is all but lost; and lose a lot of games when confidence is (or should be) up, including when there’s a big home crowd and lots of hype.

Personally, I think the team is weak minded and, apart from exceptions here and there, doesn’t know how to handle success, either allowing it force them into complacency or making the players doubt whether they can perform well again.

The first big clue into this perhaps came after the 2019 GF.

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